Joseph Mallord William Turner

?Twilight - Smugglers off Folkestone Fishing up Smuggled Gin


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 251 × 304 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCCLXIV 226

Catalogue entry

As Eric Shanes extrapolated from John Ruskin’s terse 1878 description of it as a ‘Study for drawing of Folkestone’ (as repeated by Finberg1), this relatively slight but evocative ‘colour beginning’-type sea view of cliffs below looming clouds2 may relate to the large watercolour Twilight – Smugglers off Folkestone Fishing Up Smuggled Gin (private collection);3 it was exhibited at the engraver and publisher W.B. Cooke’s gallery in 1824 (41),4 and is associated with Cooke’s short-lived Marine Views print scheme (see the Introduction to this section). The subject was subsequently engraved by Thomas Lupton in the same format as the two published designs he had worked on, but not published; see the entry for Tate’s impression (T05197) for further discussion.
The forms and mood here correspond quite closely (albeit possibly fortuitously) with those of the 1824 watercolour, particularly in depicting a narrow band of bright sky over the distant, silhouetted promontory; Ian Warrell has informally associated it rather with Turner’s ‘Little Liber’5 (see the ‘Little Liber c.1823–6’ section of the present catalogue), one of several of Turner’s 1820s projects to include coastal views. As is often the case in such studies, there is no indication of the human activity which provides the finished composition with its focus, a heavily laden boat in the right foreground. Folkestone’s parish church occupies the distant headland in the finished design, and is seen again in two works on closely related themes also included in the present section, the near complete Folkestone from the Sea (Tate D18158; Turner Bequest CCVIII Y) and its slighter variant, Tate D25480 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 357).
Shanes 1997, p.99, crediting Finberg 1909, II, p.1191; see Cook and Wedderburn 1904, p.561 for the source of the title.
See Richter-Musso 2011, p.122.
Wilton 1979, p.358 no.509, as untraced; Eric Shanes, Turner’s England 1810–38, London 1990, p.271 no.245, reproduced.
Finberg 1961, p.485; see also Shanes 1990, pp.12, 281 note 49.
See Warrell 2002, p.64, and Warrell 2003, p.147.

Matthew Imms
July 2016

Read full Catalogue entry


You might like

In the shop